Constructed in 1963 and extended a number of times over the years, the former Clipsal light manufacturing building in Adelaide had laid empty since 2009.

While a knockdown rebuild may have been easier, the building’s industrial design proved ripe for a green retrofit.

The 2,818 square metre building, which will be home to a new market retail centre and supermarket, forms part of Renewal SA’s ambitious redevelopment of the Bowden industrial precinct, which will one day be home to more than 2,000 residents.

“When you walk into Plant 4, you know you are in an old industrial building,” said the project’s ESD consultant and director of dsquared, Paul Davy.

Constructed at a time before air conditioning was commonplace, the double brick façade provides great thermal mass. The saw-tooth roof and soaring ceilings flood the building with natural light and promote good air flow.

“While it’s not always the case, we usually find buildings constructed before the 1960s have good bones – with passive design elements such as great daylight access, high thermal mass and good ventilation a given,” Davy said.

The project team was determined to maintain as much of the manufacturing character as possible. Many of the building’s industrial elements, such as cable trays and lifting hoists, have remained intact as design features, while other building elements have been repurposed into new staircases.

Davy says the biggest challenge was making the building code compliant in a cost effective manner.

“Plant 4 had high thermal mass but limited insulation; it had fans and HVAC, but they weren’t efficient. It was a shame to throw out the old lighting, but we needed to upgrade it to ensure it met today’s benchmarks,” he noted.

Some of the existing building evaporative cooling systems and some ventilation has been reused, while new services include direct and indirect evaporative cooling systems, lighting, potable and recycled water supplies, metering and building management systems. A new 60-kilowatt PV array is also being installed on the roof.

The upgrade specifications were contracted on budget with construction work now underway.

Renewal SA’s manager sustainability project delivery at Bowden, Andrew Bishop, says adapting older buildings is not only sustainable, but it helps create a vibrant sense of community from the get go.

The architecture of Plant 4 speaks volumes about the heritage of Bowden. The urban design guidelines for Bowden specify that even new buildings must respond to the industrial heritage of the area, and new residential buildings are incorporating bricks, sleepers and timber from demolished buildings in Adelaide.

“Maintaining some of the site’s older buildings not only celebrates Bowden’s heritage, but also builds extra character in an otherwise new community,” Bishop said.

Adaptive reuse also suits a retailing environment. The double height ceilings provide a sense of space and good ventilation, while the funky factory feel gives the retail space an additional edge.

“Bowden has been carefully designed to foster social and economic opportunities – and a vibrant built form enhances the streets, encourages dynamic local businesses and attracts the interest of locals,” Bishop added.

Bowden’s leadership in sustainability doesn’t end at Plant 4. Each building on the 16.3-hectare site must achieve a 5 Star Green Star rating or above. Renewal SA has raised the bar further by committing to achieve a Green Star – Communities rating for the entire precinct.

Building at Bowden isn’t just a matter of bricks and mortar. Renewal SA is creating a community that protects the natural environment, that is built for resilience, and that has people at its heart.

Main image: Renewal SA